The Commander Advisory Group is a committee of well-respected individuals in the MTG community who congregate quarterly to discuss the state of the game’s most popular format. The community created Commander, so it is only appropriate that the community is the one to manage the format’s ban list. The current mindset of the Commander Advisory group is, generally, to ban as little as possible. Since Rule Zero has become a commonplace discussion when engaging in Commander games, this rule has been a decent substitute for mitigating the problems that individual cards would cause.
That being said, there is the occasional powerful strategy that appears. Whether it is too easy to access for the player base (Paradox Engine turning any combination of cards into a solitaire engine) or is simply too powerful (Protean Hulk and Flash), there are still cards that the advisory group continues to monitor because they lean too far to the second item. These ideas are encapsulated by the Advisory Group as impact and power, respectively. Both cards have offended the ‘power’ category but have not yet offended the ‘impact’ category. To offend the ‘impact’ category, the card in question needs to negatively impact a large portion of the game, much like Paradox Engine.
The two recently discussed candidates have not been banned yet, but they will be kept in mind if their positions become more dominant. In case these get banned soon, being aware of them as a player can stop your 99 from being blindsided! Here are the cards most likely to be banned in Commander in the near future.
Between the two candidates currently being watched by the Commander Advisory Group, “Dockside Extortionist is far closer to the line due to the recent uptick in Treasure-related cards.” Don’t be fooled by this goofy pirate’s appearance! Dockside Extortionist is capable of winning games as soon as it enters the battlefield. Many know how powerful this card truly is, but for those who don’t, Dockside Extortionist gives its controller a Treasure Token for each artifact and enchantment opponents control. This card is also easy to recur with blink or bounce strategies, quickly leading to a scenario where Dockside Extortionist can create an infinite loop of mana to win the game.
The sheer advantage and social problems that this card cause is enough for it to warrant a ban. That being said, Rule Zero enables Dockside Extortionist to be “self-selected to the appropriate tables.” Regardless, Dockside Extortionist is an incredibly powerful two mana creature and will “remain firmly in our sights,” according to the advisory group.
Unlike the other card on this list, Dockside Extortionist has a lot of scenarios where it can accumulate a ton of advantages without winning the game. This results in Extortionist seeing play at a wider variety of tables from time to time, allowing the card to wreak more havoc. For those doubtful of Dockside Extortionist’s impact, its price trends on the secondary market are all the proof it needs.
A majority of EDH players would be happy to see this card go. Thassa’s Oracle is another two-mana creature that wins the game on entry. This card is most famously part of the two-card combo of Demonic Consultation and itself, presenting a sorcery speed win for three mana. Thassa’s Oracle cares about your library being empty. If your Devotion to Blue is more than or equal to the number of cards in your library, Thassa’s Oracle will win you the game.
Rule Zero has a significant impact on this card at casual Commander tables. Most playgroups frown upon infinite combos, and having a three-mana one that steals games out of the blue does a great job of undermining the fun, battle cruise-ish grind that most Commander players chase after. That being said, cEDH tables are very prepared for instant wins from Thassa’s Oracle and even have some hilarious tech in the form of Memory Jar in Magda decks to deter Oracle players from winning the game.
All this being said, Thassa’s Oracle wouldn’t be the worst card to ban. If banning a win condition ultimately deters a deck type, this is more of an issue. There are many cards. However, that can win as a result of an empty Library. Jace, Wielder of Mysteries and Laboratory Maniac are some less powerful alternatives that can easily do Oracle’s dirty work in a lower-powered Commander game. Thassa’s Oracle is only likely to be banned, as a result, if it becomes too powerful at Commander’s most competitive tables.
Untrusted Games are the Real Problem
In the Commander Advisory Group’s most recent statement, a lot of effort was put into discussing the real boogeyman of the Commander format: untrusted games. According to the Commander Advisory Group, untrusted games are “those in which you don’t know the other people you’re sitting down with.” These can commonly occur at an LGS hosting a Commander night where you and a friend may sit down with some other players you are unfamiliar with to play games.
My LGS has gigantic Commander nights, some with more than 60 people in attendance. I rarely go with a full table of people, so it is very common that I sit with another group. Unfortunately, my collection is further along than most other players at the venue, so even though I have some decks around the power level of a prebuilt deck, a disparity in power level at a table is incredibly common.
While the Advisory Group does not think they can “ban their way into solving” the issue, they believe they can make an impact.
“What we think we can do is help not just players, but LGS owners/managers and event organizers, with some best practices and other advice on how to craft the kind of Commander environment they want. There isn’t a single, homogenized view among all the people who are running Commander in various places, so one of our new efforts going forward will be to provide those folks with some living documentation that will help them get to where they’d like to go.”
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What are Your Thoughts?
Personally, I think the Commander Advisory Group has the right mindset. Most problematic Commander cards nowadays can be screened by discussing Rule Zero as a playgroup. Instead of banning cards from everyone, the Advisory Group is instead looking at ways to make Rule Zero a more natural process for Commander players. That said, Thassa’s Oracle would not be the worst ban in the world. Should this card become too powerful at top tables, very few would miss it. That being said, if it doesn’t need to be banned, don’t ban it.Golos, Tireless Pilgrim is an exceptionally controversial banning decision made in recent times that many people were not happy with. While Golos was capable of creating a powerful deck out of almost anything, it gave a lot of Commander players a cheap bar-to-entry to play with others. As a vast gateway Commander into the format, many MTG players argue about whether Golos was a good ban or not. Do you disagree with some of these points? The Commander Advisory Group has a Discord channel to discuss these quarterly updates. You can find that link at the bottom of their original announcement, which can be found here.